Arabian Nightlife

World-class restaurants and hip bars can be found aplenty in the Middle East. Nicholas Chrisostomu, owner of hospitality, music and Arabian Nightlife consultancy Coco Latté reveals more on Arabian Nightlife

Many people may be surprised to learn that the Middle East can offer a rich and varied nightlife. ‘It’s a place of fascinating contradictions,’ says Nicholas Chrisostomou, who advises five-star hotels around the world on their restaurants, bars and entertainment via his London-based company, Coco Latté, and is currently working with Hyatt and Starwood hotels in the region. ‘On the one hand we are advised to respect local traditions, cover up and behave conservatively, yet on the other we are encouraged to party, drink, dance and let loose, which can confuse the first-time tourist.’ Nicholas says that spending time in the Middle East and getting to know both the locals and expats has helped him to understand both sides, and as a result creating the right kind of events and entertainment. ‘Without going into specific detail about each city, alcohol is generally only available in restaurants, bars and nightclubs within international hotels,’ he says. ‘This is strictly the case in Doha, Muscat, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but the rules between each do vary. Availability is restricted during the holy month of Ramadan, which is earlier by 11 days every year, so check the dates before travelling.’

But the overall advice is not to dwell too much on the technicalities, as there are plenty of opportunities in the region for a night to remember. ‘Relax, explore your surroundings and enjoy,’ Nicholas advises. ‘Some of my most decadent nights out and delicious meals have been in Doha, Dubai and Muscat, but unlike cities elsewhere you can’t amble around and come across a top notch eatery or rocking bar. You really have to know where they are, or know someone who does.’

So where does Nicholas recommend? ‘In Dubai, cocktail bars with great views are popular,’ he reveals, ‘such as 360° at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, looking back across Dubai’s coastline. Or you can party in tropical surroundings at Mahiki in the same venue, or inside the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, at the Armani Privé Club, or mingle with fashionistas at the Cavalli Club in the Fairmont Hotel, which was launched as a collaboration with Roberto Cavalli. Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE, nearer Abu Dhabi than Dubai, is probably the hippest place in the UAE, as it’s a members’ club and the closest you’ll get to an Ibiza feel. I also love the purpose-built Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha Club in the St Regis hotel there, because the sound system and service are exceptional.’

Of course a hard night of partying requires energy, and that means fuelling up at a suitable restaurant. ‘The number and variety of restaurants in the region is incredible, especially in the UAE and Qatar,’ says Nicholas. ‘Chefs who have set up here include Gordon Ramsay, Gary Rhodes, Pierre Gagnaire, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Nobu Matsuhisa. Le Petit Maison and Zuma are my favourite restaurants in Dubai, while Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace hotel is the most stylish in Abu Dhabi. The best food to be enjoyed in Muscat is at The Restaurant in the Chedi hotel, Asian eatery Marjan at Grand Hyatt Muscat, and Kurkum Indian restaurant near Muttrah Souk.’ However, there is one restaurant in the Middle East which has particularly impressed Nicholas recently. ‘IDAM by Alain Ducasse, at the top of Doha’s iconic Museum of Islamic Art, he reveals ‘is an amazing culinary and visual experience, with a stunning interior designed by Philippe Starck. The lack of alcohol is more than made up for by chef Romain Meder’s incredible food, in particular his camel and foie gras main.’

But while some of these experiences may seem a little ‘Western’ in nature, Nicholas reveals that you can still spend an evening as the locals do. ‘There are few things I enjoy more than mint tea and shisha, people-watching in a souk,’ he says. ‘Cairo has the best souk, Khan el-Khalili, and it’s the perfect way to wind down after a hectic weekend.’

Where to stay

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE –

Doha, Qatar – IDAM, Museum of Islamic Art

Isaan, Grand Hyatt Doha –

Yum Yum, K108 Hotel –

Dubai, UAE

Buddha Bar, Grosvenor House –

Mahiki, Jumeirah Beach Hotel –

Muscat, Oman

Zouk, Crowne Plaza Muscat –

Nicholas has been involved in food and nightlife since his teens. He owned and managed London nightclubs until 2008, and for the past decade has been advising top resorts on their entertainment and food and beverage concepts via his company, Coco Latté.

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